Ahh … the sweet smell of spring

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At the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District, we seem to be getting an increasing number of calls related to the smell and handling of manure.

So, I thought it fitting to mention just how pollution complaints work, in regards to manure. Lucky for me, most of our complaints this year have been related to the smell and not actual cases of pollution.

Don’t assume that just because there is a lot of smell and a big pile of manure that the livestock operation is polluting. There are guidelines farmers must follow to properly store and handle manure.

Legislation in the 1970s and 1990s gave the Division of Soil and Water Conservation the authority to develop standards for livestock waste management for small- and medium-sized livestock operations, called the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program.

The Ohio EPA regulated large livestock operations until the mid-2000s, when power was transferred to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Because of this legislation, your local soil and water conservation district gets to respond to complaints first, and work with the producer to determine if there is an actual pollution problem.

Guide

The conservation districts must follow practices and standards that come from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Field Office Technical Guide. The guide is used to identify practices that would rectify the situation and how to develop management programs that will further prevent water pollution problems.

Cost-share program

The legislation also created a cost-share program that is state-funded.

The Division of Soil and Water Resources may cost share with private owners and operators to solve water pollution problems from animal waste. Eligible projects can receive up to 75 percent of the cost. However, there is a limit of $15,000 when available.

Federal funds may also be available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Livestock operations that use an approved operation and management plan can even have an affirmative defense against nuisance suits. Of course, the operator must show proper documentation showing how they utilized Best Management Practices, but I think it’s still important to note that a manure management plan and proper implementation and documentation can help if a problem comes up in the future.

When local assistance fails to correct the pollution problem, the Chief of Ohio Department on Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources can issue what we call a “chief’s order.”

In this case, the chief files with the court of common pleas in the county that the pollution complaint was filed. The court issues an order to comply with the pollution abatement rules.

In addition, the chief can also order immediate action on emergency situations due to an illegal release or spill. Basically, the Division of Soil and Water Resources gives power to the local conservation districts to work on a local level.

Most of us would rather work with someone we know or know of, than someone from the state who may not have set foot on a farm in a few years.

Conservation districts are considered the first line of defense for helping producers voluntarily comply with pollution abatement laws and rules.

They determine if a particular complaint is a pollution problem, and help the operator abate, or eliminate, a pollution problem with technical assistance. If needed, the local conservation district can involve the state for financial assistance or to help nudge the operator into compliance by requesting a chief’s order.

Conservation districts also provide farmers with the tools to develop a management plan to operate without polluting.

Information

For information about Ohio’s Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program, contact your local soil and water conservation district or visit the Ohio Department on Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources Web site at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/soilandwater.

About the Author

Yvonne Ackerman is the District Program Administrator for Harrison Soil & Water Conservation District. Ackerman was raised in rural Monroe County, the daughter of a coal miner. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Communications from the Ohio State University and has been working with Ohio conservation districts since 2004. Contact Ackerman at 740-942-8837 or email yackerman@verizon.net. More Stories by Yvonne Ackerman

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